The No. 15 Oregon Ducks picked up a key victory with a 3-1 in over the No. 12 Utah Utes on Wednesday night at Matthew Knight Arena.
Oregon (14-5, 7-4) is winners of four straight matches and currently sit in fourth place in the conference.
“This was a match I’ve been looking forward to because we’re both in a place where we’re both healthy and we’re full strength, and we’re both really good,” head coach Matt Ulmer said. “We need a match like this.”
After splitting the first two sets, the third and fourth sets played nearly identical. In the third set, tied at 14 points, the Ducks scored six-of-seven to take a 20-15 lead.
However, with Oregon needing just two points to win the set, Utah climbed back and responded with its own 6-1 run to pull within one and force Oregon to call a timeout. Out of the timeout, it was a kill by Ronika Stone that clinched the 25-23 set victory for the Ducks.
In the fourth set, Oregon used a 7-1 run to take control of the match at 20-13. Again, Utah rallied, outscoring Oregon 7-3. With the Ducks needing just one point to win the match, Oregon called a timeout — similar to the third set. Once again, it was Stone with the decisive kill to close out the set, 25-22, and the match, 3-1.
“For our confidence, (this win) should do wonders,” Ulmer said. “Because that was a really, really, good team that played well and we just played better.”
The first set was a game of runs that saw Oregon strike first. The Ducks scored 10 of the first 13 to take a seven-point lead. Utah then responded with a five-out-of-six, before Oregon rebounded with seven-of-nine points.
The two teams then exchanged points before Oregon finished off the Utes with three straight points to win the first set, 25-18.
In the second set, with both teams tied at 12, it was just the Utes that used a run to gain the advantage in the set. Utah scored four in a row, to take a lead they would never give back to the Ducks.
However, the Ducks would make Utah earn it. Trailing 24-18 with Utah one point away from tying the match at a game apiece, the Ducks scored three straight to cut the deficit in half and force a Utes timeout. But out of the timeout, Utah got the point they needed on a kill by Kenzie Koerber to win the set 25-21.
Next up for the Ducks is a match against the Colorado Buffaloes on Friday at 7 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena in the finale of Oregon’s four-game homestand.
“We should be excited to play them,” Oregon head coach Matt Ulmer said. “Colorado’s a really good team. Anything we can do to add to our resume and continue on that progression, I think we should be all for.”
Follow Zak Laster on Twitter @zlast3445